Friends are like a comfortable pair of jeans
April 27, 2009 at midnight
Updated April 26, 2009 at 11:27 p.m.
PORK TENDERLOIN WITH LIGHTLY SEARED STRAWBERRIES from "The New Spanish Table"
2 pork tenderloins (about 1 pound each)
Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper
About 2 Tbsp. crumbled dried rosemary
2 Tbsp. olive oil, plus more for brushing the griddle
10 to 12 large aromatic but firm strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/3 cup chicken stock or broth or water
1/2 cup sherry vinegar, preferable aged
2 to 4 tsp. sugar
Flaky sea salt, such as Ma1don, for garnish Minced basil leaves for garnish
Rub the pork generously with salt, pepper, and rosemary. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium high heat. Add the pork and cook until richly browned on all sides, about 6 minutes total. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook the pork turning several times until it is tender and an instant read meat thermometer registers 155 degrees F, about 15 minutes. Transfer the pork to a cutting board and let rest, covered with aluminum foil, while you prepare the strawberries and the sauce. The internal temperature will rise as the meat stands. Set the skillet aside; you will use it to make the sauce.
Rub an unridged griddle plan or a large heavy skillet with an oiled paper towel and heat until almost smoking. Add the strawberries and sear for about 45 seconds, turning once. They should be cooked until slightly softened but should not release too much juice.
Add the chicken stock to the skillet in which the pork was cooked and place it over medium high heat, scraping the bottom of the skillet to dislodge the brown bits. Cook until the stock is almost syrupy, about 3 minutes. Add the vinegar and 2 teaspoons of the sugar and continue cooking until the sauce is almost thick enough to coat a spoon, 3 to 5 minutes longer. After about 11/2 minutes, taste the sauce and add more sugar to taste if it seems too tart.
Cut the pork into thick slices and arrange them decoratively on the serving plate. Spoon some seared strawberries beside the meat and drizzle the sauce on and around the meal and the strawberries. Sprinkle flaky salt over the pork and garnish with chives. Serve at once. Yield- 5-6 servings
Spicy Smokey Mashed Potatoes
2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 dried ancho chile
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, minced
4 large garlic cloves, minced
2 to 4 tsp. smoked Hot Spanish paprika
Freshly ground black pepper
Strips of roasted red pepper (garnish)
Put the potatoes, ancho chile, and bay leaf in a saucepan, and cover with cold salted water. Boil over medium heat until the potatoes are tender when pierced. Drain the potatoes, reserving 1/3 cup of the cooking liquid.
While the potatoes are cooking, heat the olive oil in a small skillet over low heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute, taking care that it doesn't brown. Add the paprika and immediately remove the skillet from the heat.
Transfer the drained potatoes to a bowl and mash them. Stir in the onion and oil mixture, the reserved potato cooking liquid, and the cream. Season with salt and pepper.
Grandmothers of Sils' Apple and Yogurt Cakefrom "The New Spanish Table"
Unsalted butter, for greasing the pan
21/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
11/4 tsp. baking powder
4 large eggs
11/4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup lemon yogurt*
1/4 cup anise liqueur, such as Sambuca
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons light olive oil
3 cups finely diced or shredded peeled and cored baking apples, such as Granny Smith or Jonagold, or a combination
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting the cake
Creme fraiche, for serving (optional)
Position rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9-inch springform pan. Sift the flour and baking powder together in a bowl. Place the eggs and granulated sugar in a large mixing bowl and, using an electric mixer, beat until fluffy and pale yellow, about 1 minute. Beat in the yogurt and liqueur until completely smooth. Working in batches, beat in the sifted flour, alternating it with the olive oil. Gently but thoroughly fold in the apples. Scrape the batter into the prepared springform pan, tap it on a counter to level the batter, then smooth the top with an offset spatula. Bake the cake on the center rack until the top is golden, a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, and the cake springs back when you touch it, 55 to 65 minutes. Let the cake cool on a rack. Run a thin knife around the side of the cake to loosen it. Remove the side and the bottom of the pan, then place the cake on a cake platter. (The cake can be baked up to 3 days ahead.) Wrap it loosely in plastic until ready to use. Serve the cake sprinkled with confectioners' sugar, accompanied by creme fraiche, if desired.
EXPAND YOUR FOOD VOCABULARY
Pancetta - a type of dry cured meat. It is pork belly that has been salt cured and spiced (nutmeg, pepper, fennel, dried ground hot peppers and garlic are often featured), and dried for about three months (but usually not smoked).
Frisèe - member of the chicory family, has a frizzy texture, as well as a deliciously bitter edge.
Ric Tinney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Panache is open daily for lunch at 122 North Courthouse Square, Goliad, Texas, 361-645-3400.
"Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival."
C. S. Lewis
Most of the time, friends are as comfortable as your favorite pair of jeans. When buying jeans one looks for something that feels right when first tried on and that seem of the quality that will last. And perhaps I should add that good jeans don't accentuate your bad features.
When forming friendships I look for the same things.
Off the rack the jeans may be slightly stiff at first but after wearing them and washing them they develop a softness and comfort known only to the wearer. A hole may develop which needs mending, and that can add character, but if you take care of the pants they could last a lifetime.
Many years ago we started a supper club. I have written about some of our relationships before. We are a group of 12 who share a love of food and of each other.
One or two couples have moved or dropped out over time and so we have replaced them with others. So now it is made up of some old friends and some really old friends.
When we started we either had babies or no kids at all. Now our talk is of emptying nests and older children off at college.
We meet once per month, all taking a turn at hosting our evening. The hostess usually sends the invitations with an included recipe for each couple to prepare and bring to the gathering.
The food is not always wonderful but is usually well above average. We have had beef tenderloin that has cooked too long or pork that is too dry, but as is the case with old friends, we don't make a big deal about it.
The food is not the main tie that binds us together. What connects us is the time we spend at the table together sharing the stories of our lives.
Even after we finish the last bite of dessert, we don't usually rush to clean the table and depart but rather we often sit and visit. All of us are good friends and share an intimacy that only time creates.
Our tables are the places where we share our lives one conversation at a time. We may voice our opinions about the economy or politics and government, or of recent family trips, or of fishing adventures and the one that got away.
But occasionally we share concerns in our lives about our health, our children or our aging parents. We've all faced different struggles. And the good of having traversed a rocky path is that we are able to offer suggestions or sympathy for those who are facing a similar road.
One thing I have noticed in the 15 years of supper club is that we are more relaxed with each other every year. We still decorate the table and use silverware and real plates although talk of moving to paper or plastic has occurred. At the very heart of each meal is the hostess's desire to please the guests and each time that is accomplished in preparation.
As we age it seems that less preparation is required. I know that if we gathered and had pizza or hamburgers it would be enough.
Laura and Doug hosted supper club this month. They had gone to a fund raiser earlier this year and been the high bidders for a special dinner for 12 at Ric Tinney's Panache Restaurant in Goliad. Ric had been kind enough to donate the dinner as an auction item. They decided to redeem the dinner for our group.
This evening was a treat since none of us would be preparing any of the food but just showing up for the feast. Panache is located on the beautiful downtown square right across from the old courthouse.
The restaurant is in a well decorated historic building. The dining room and kitchen are all part of one big room. It has a neat open feeling and gives the diner a unique ability to enjoy the sight, smells, and sounds of the food preparation. The aromas of garlic and herbs was making my mouth water before I had my first bite.
Ric has decorated the place well with his personal art collection on the walls and stainless steel chairs and tables mixed with antiques.
Ric and his assistant, Shirley, were preparing a "Spanish feast" for our evening. What made that evening even more special was that Ric came out to our table and explained the story behind each recipe.
We had all arrived about 7 p.m. in Goliad and after some brief visiting took our seats at the table and the feast began.
Ric surprised our palates with an appetizer of dark chocolate on toasted bread drizzled with olive oil and delicately sprinkled with sea salt. It was unusual but the sweet and salty flavor tickled my tongue.
Next he served a Frisee salad with Pears and Honey lardoons (Pancetta). This salad paired the pears perfectly with the salty pancetta, which is a dry cured Italian bacon. The salad was made with curly endive and dressed with a red wine vinegar and olive oil dressing. Our next course was a Castillian Garlic soup made with at least 10 cloves of garlic and served with poached eggs and croutons topping the soup. I handed off my poached egg to Taylor since I am not an egg fan.
The soup was made from a chicken stock and had a hint of smoky paprika.
I was already starting to feel full but the food kept coming.
Next Ric brought a platter of grilled chicken dressed with a piquillo gazpacho sauce.
The orange of the sauce contrasted with the light golden color of the chicken breast and fresh basil oil was drizzled on top.
There was a lot of drizzling going on in this meal which added another dimension to the flavors of the dishes.
But wait, there's more. The main entrée, pork tenderloin with lightly seared strawberries was a beautiful, colorful dish. The pork was topped with the strawberries and then dried rosemary was crumbled on top. The pork had been sautéed in olive oil until lightly browned, then was finished off with the strawberries.
The strawberries kept their color because they had been seared in a very hot skillet for only about 45 seconds and so they remained red and juicy.
As a side he provided smoky mashed potatoes. They were the color of sweet potatoes because of smoked Spanish paprika (two to four teaspoons). An ancho chile was boiled with the potatoes to add a spicy, smoky dimension to the dish.
Perhaps the most interesting of all the dishes arrived at dessert. Ric had prepared a "Grandmothers of Sils" Apple and Yogurt cake. The cake texture was similar to a cheesecake but Sambuca (anise liqueur) gave the cake a slightly licorice flavor.
Between each course Ric had explained the preparation of the dishes making the dish more special because when we knew the ingredients we could anticipate the flavors.
This particular cake recipe had been written down by a group of Spanish grandmothers in the Spanish town of Sils. They had decided that the traditional dishes that had been passed down through the generations were being lost so they published the recipes in the popular cookbook, "The New Spanish Table" by Anya von Bremzen.
Ric Tinney's meal was a delicious dining experience for our group of friends. When we left the restaurant there was a lightness in our spirit. We had been filled with the sweet essence of friends gathered around a table laden with good food.
For those two hours we enjoyed a wonderful meal, shared what was happening in our lives and looked forward to our next time together. Thanks to Ric, Doug and Laura.
Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or e-mail email@example.com.